Creating A Product For Yourself And Turning It Into A Business

Published: July 22nd, 2018
Roberta Perry
ScrubzBody Skin C...
from Farmingdale, New York, USA
started June 2006
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Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?

My name is Roberta Perry and I am the founder of ScrubzBody Skin Care Products. I started the business in June of 2006 with my late sister Michelle after she insisted the scrub I was making for myself deserved to be used and sold to others.

Our sugar scrub is most definitely the main product and we have about 20 different scents at any given time. We will customize a special scent for our customers as well. We started making creams and lotions and other variations of the scrub.

We now have 12 other products that are all wrapped around our botanical oil blend. Our customers love coming to our shop in Farmingdale, NY as well as shopping online. We like to think of ourselves as a customer experience company that happens to sell great products.

Our business grew from my kitchen to 75 square feet in my garage for 5 years. Then we moved to an 800 sq. foot space and then 1380 sq ft in Bethpage and are now in 1427 sq. feet in Farmingdale which includes production and party space. Our growth each year has been slow and steady, but after being the finale episode on Sell it Like Serhant, a show that had one season on Bravo, our business is growing a little faster!

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My skin was crazy dry and peeling even in some spots. I started using lotion but nothing seemed to work. Then I found exfoliating product and everything changed. I bought dozens of jars over a year and a half period and had something I loved about every jar and something I didn’t love. I decided to make my own. My sister pushed me to sell and joined me in the business.

I had no expertise in skincare, but I had research and the love of learning something new.

I tried different techniques. I studied up on good labeling practices. I wanted to do it right from the beginning. I asked questions. I joined a business group, which has a robust facebook group, a great mentor and a great group of makers to learn from and lean on. I go to local Chamber events and online networking groups to give me different perspectives.

Starting this business changed my life. It opened doors. It introduced me not only to some of the best people in the world through my customers and business groups but I learned so much about myself, too.

My products really started selling themselves, with a little push from us via marketing at parties and event. When I met the owner of a chain of salons on Long Island, where I lived, and he said I could speak with the spa buyer and sell at his salons, I knew I was on to something. Our repeat business kept increasing as well, so we knew that customers were returning again and again.

I then expanded into more wholesale and at one point we were in about 28 Whole Foods Markets. As our storefront market grew, however, I knew that it was retail that was what I loved most. I love knowing our customers. I love serving them one on one. Now we do a little bit of wholesale to small boutique type shops, a growing private label and 90% retail, both in the store and online.

In my previous life I was the marketing director of a failing adult education school in Dallas, TX, working from my home on Long Island, NY. I was also selling telecom services and working as a freelance graphic designer. When I made the original body scrub, it was for myself. When my sister suggested selling it, the thought of combining all my other business knowledge and wrapping it around a product I loved was intriguing. All these years later I am still amazed at the process and progress. I still love it every single day.

Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.

I started making the sugar scrub for my own personal use. I had an epiphany moment at a bath and body store after literally scratching my itchy dry skin so much I made it bleed. The woman at the shop introduced me to exfoliating scrubs. Then, like Goldilocks, I was on a quest for the best one. Not too greasy, not too coarse, not too stinky.

When I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I decided to create my own. I did so much research at the library and online, trying to figure out which of the botanical oils that appeared on the jars I had purchased were the best. I settled on eight because each oil really brings something else to the recipe.

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I worked out of my kitchen, then moved to a renovated garage for 5 years. In 2011 we rented an 800 sq. ft. store front and then 3 years later moved to almost 1400 sq ft. in the heart of that same town. In November of 2017 we moved again, this time to brand new space in Farmingdale, an upcoming and thriving town in the heart of Long Island. We were able to truly design the space according to our needs.

We like to consider ourselves more of a "body care bakery", using natural, edible ingredients for our base and whipping them like food. When we worked on other products, it was all based around the original eight botanical oil base. We then just shifted ratios and added additional ingredients. But everything we make comes back to those original eight.

We first make barrels of unscented base. Then we whip the scent into the scrub in 12-16 jar batches. We jar by hand, label and shrink wrap. Every item we make is treated to that kind of love.

Describe the process of launching the online store.

I had a little knowledge about websites from my failed businesses. One of my partners had set that one up and I watched. I took that knowledge and along with an e-commerce plug in, launched my website on Doteasy. I had it like that for years.

In 2011 I switched to Shopifyand switched again to WordPress with a WooCommerce plugin in 2015. I recently did an entire revamp of my site, hiring Debbie Levitt of the company PType, to create a better UX or User Experience. They have transformed my site to being the best it has ever been. Not only does it look great, but the flow of ordering and getting information is so much easier. My bounce rate has shifted dramatically down.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Customer Service, Customer Service, Customer Service!

It all boils down to treating customers like the royalty they are and remembering that I would have no business without them. That is how we retain and grow our biggest audience. Other ways include hosting Make Your Own Scrubz Parties which bring in large groups. This is when 6 or more people come to our shop and create their own signature scent of our body scrub. We pamper them with hand scrubs and great food. They color and design their jars, caps and bags as well. For those who can't make it to the shop, we also have a Make Your Own Scrubz Party Box, which is a complete "Make Your Own Scrubz Party', minus only the pitcher of water for hand scrubs, the measuring utensils and the guests!

I actively post on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. I send out a weekly newsletter which includes tips and suggestions based on skin care and health research. I write blogs about skin care and customer service, let alone relevant topics regarding health and wellness. Adding fresh content to our website is important for SEO because it keeps it top of mind and fresh for the "Google Bots".

I approach writers and reporters through Help a Reporter Out (HARO). I even wrote a book on using the service because I have been picked up so many times. Whenever there is a query from someone writing a story or article that speaks to my expertise, I answer it. If it is published, the link about me or my business comes right back to my website. That is good for SEO as well.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

It took awhile to become profitable because I had borrowed money and I was also continually putting money back into the business as we expanded.

I personally did not take a salary for years while paying everyone else. I also made plenty of mistakes! I made buying mistakes and sales rep mistakes. I had zero business background when I started and the tips I share are from lots of learning by trial and error. And not making the same mistakes twice.

But I finally learned.

Every time I pay myself, I smile. Every time I see an order from a new customer, I smile.

We have finally streamlined our procedures. We are more efficient in our ordering. We are training a new part-time person because we are seeing monthly growth from moving to a new location and from being on Sell it Like Serhant. My store makes up 90% of of sales and is growing weekly, but our online business is now expanding faster than it every did.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Starting this business changed my life. It opened doors. It introduced me not only to some of the best people in the world through my customers and business groups but I learned so much about myself, too. It taught me resilience and order. It taught me how to organize. It took my ambition and it reshaped it. Mostly, it allows me the chance, on a daily basis, to really care for people. To serve them and make them feel good about themselves.

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone and it’s most certainly not for the faint of heart. But it makes you grateful, humble and proud.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I use WordPress and WooCommerce to run both my e-commerce store and my blog.

I love Photoshop or something similar to fix photos or make a quick banner.

If This Then That is a great service that you can set up to do a host of automated options. For example, IFTTT posts to my Twitter account every time I post to Instagram.

I like the ease of MailChimp for my weekly email newsletter.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

My two favorite business books are Zombie Loyalists by Peter Shankman - this book reminds you to go the extra mile for your customers and they will lead you, like Zombies, to many more customers and The Go-Giver by Bob Burke and John David Mann - This book reminds you that your influence is in giving your knowledge away and how to grow that exponentially

Both books are super easy to read and not stuffy business books. More importantly, they drive good point home and make implementing the ideas easy.

I adore listening to and reading Marie Forleo and Ash Ambirge

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

My top tip is to figure out what you want from your business right away.

  1. Is it something scalable?

  2. Is it something you are passionate about?

  3. Is there a need in the marketplace?

Think these things through. Have enough money on the side for things that may go wrong. Think about the entire spectrum of getting your item to market, not just the cost of the product itself.

Remember that you have no business without loyal customers, so spend as much time loving on them as you do trying to acquire new business. ROI costs so much less to keep an existing customer then it does to market to a new one. Loyalty from your customers is like residual income. Never stop treating them right.

Where can we go to learn more?